Toolkit

Coping in an uncertain world

The last couple of years have been uncertain for all of us. We’ve faced lots of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic – our lives in and out of work have been dictated by lockdowns, rules and restrictions, and we’ve been unable to socialise with the ones we love. It’s been tricky. And it’s only normal to have felt worried or unsettled.

Things have felt a little more dependable lately. But with rising cases of the new variant, restrictions being reintroduced (just in time for Christmas) it’s no surprise that some people are feeling anxious once more.

COVID-19 aside, we’ve faced a lot of other uncertainties recently. We’ve seen a shortage of supermarket supplies, concerns around the growing numbers of people experiencing long COVID, as well as struggling sectors leading to job losses.

The truth is, many of these things are outside of our control. This lack of control can lead to an overwhelming sense of anxiety; of not knowing what to expect and when. And not being able to make plans in advance, or have things to look forward to, can take its toll.

So, if you’re finding it hard to stop worrying about the uncertainties that surround us right now, what can you do? And how can you support each other at work?

Awareness, acknowledge, act

Affinity: health at workWe asked Dr. Jo Yarker, of Affinity Health at Work, for some tips in navigating all this. Her approach focuses on three things:

  • Awareness. It’s helpful to be aware of our own signs and triggers. Do we know how our behaviour changes, and what we need to do to help keep ourselves well? Can we recognise the impact of all that is going on, on ourselves and on others?
  • Acknowledge. Face the issue head on – try not to shy away. Think through what you can control, and what you can’t. Acknowledging what is going on and how you feel is a big step towards finding coping strategies that will help you managing your worries.
  • Act. Identify some small actions you can do to keep yourself well. These might be things you can do for yourself, and/or specific things you can ask of others, such as help on a challenging task, an extension to a deadline, time off for an appointment. Then, take action to make them happen.

We’re not alone

“We all have a tendency to see things in black and white: ‘things that are in my control’ and ‘things that are not’. But we often have more control than we realise. We can build an IGLOo to help us through challenging times.”

Your IGLOo refers to resources that can help you manage your worries – we have Individual, Group, Line manager, Organisational and Outside resources. While we might not be able to control everything as an Individual, we can look for help from others in:

  • our Groups (colleagues, family, friends), who can provide valuable social support;
  • our Line managers, who can help us prioritise our day and afford us flexibility in our work;
  • and our Organisations, who can provide access to wellbeing resources and create psychologically safe environments.

Sometimes things are outside of our own control, but with the help of our IGLOo we can see we are not all alone.

What else?

It can be useful to remember that everyone is having a slightly different experience: different habits, reasons, vulnerabilities, worries and needs. They’re not always obvious. It’s OK to discuss these – explain what you need or what you’re thinking, and ask people what’s going on for them. Mind’s page on mask anxiety has lots of examples of negotiating the world of confused expectations.

Don’t feel bad about switching off from the news (however you consume yours) sometimes. Keeping track of what’s going on can feel a little like keeping things under control – but try to notice what effect this has on your mood. After all, stuff will still happen, or not happen, whether you read about it or not.

If you can, think about your working patterns: how, where and when you do things. As the world changes around us, it’s sometimes worth revisiting old habits. More and more people are working flexibly in one way or another, and you can’t be in trouble for asking about it. A wellness action plan can help you to identify what works well for you, what might not, and what your signs are that things might need a change.

Ready?

We’ve suggested some resources below that can help you with lots of these ideas. From all of us: take care.


Resources in this toolkit:


Wellness action plans are an easy way to help support your own mental health at work and that of your team members. They particularly focus on identifying signs and triggers, as we spoke about above. Mind has guidance and templates to get you started, for both employees and line managers.

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Resources

​Hybrid working

Web page

This page gives a simple overview of some of the factors to consider when you're working partly from home. It's designed to help line managers make a success of it - so is a good way to think through what your options might be.

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